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Augustus Henry Sandford (1859–1923)

by Chris Clark

This article was published:

Augustus Henry Sandford (1859-1923), soldier, was born on 16 May 1859 at Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, England, son of Horace Vavasour Sandford, medical practitioner, and his wife Martha, née Rallings. He enlisted in the Herefordshire Volunteer Infantry and passed entrance examinations for the Royal Miliary Academy, Woolwich, before arriving in New South Wales, where he joined the Militia Garrison Artillery in 1885. Commissioned lieutenant in September 1887, he was appointed to the permanent forces in November 1889. On 15 January 1890, at St John's Anglican Church, Darlinghurst, he married Lucretia Annie Eliza Roberts; they had two sons and two daughters; they were divorced in 1903.

Promoted captain in January 1893, Sandford passed long courses of gunnery and ordnance in England in 1897-99. In July 1902 he was appointed to the Commonwealth Headquarters staff where he was responsible for artillery, ammunition and ordnance stores; he held this post for the next eight years, often fulfilling duties as a member of military committees. The general officer commanding, Major General Sir Edward Hutton, described him in October 1904 as a 'painstaking officer'. He was promoted major in April 1905. In June 1910 he was appointed to command the artillery forces in Victoria, and moved to an equivalent post in Queensland in January 1911. He was given command of the Port Phillip defences in August 1912 and promoted lieutenant-colonel, Royal Australian Garrison Artillery, in November.

As commander of the fort at Queenscliff on the outbreak of World War I, Sandford sought confirmation that he should intercept the German steamer Pfalz as it attempted to leave Port Phillip Bay, and was responsible for firing Australia's first shot of the war. His attempts, despite his age, to embark on active service were unsuccessful; the minister for defence reportedly thanked him for his offer but retained him in Australia. He wrote a manual, Key to Infantry Training 1914 (Melbourne, 1915), and in May 1915 was appointed military commandant in South Australia with temporary rank of colonel (made brevet rank from December in recognition of his 'specially meritorious' wartime service in Australia). In April 1916 he was placed in command of the fortress defences of Port Jackson, Sydney, but in March 1917 was made assistant adjutant general on the district staff in New South Wales. He retired in November 1918 with honorary rank of brigadier general but this was held in abeyance while he enlisted in the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force as a major (honorary colonel) and embarked for New Guinea to command the 3rd Battalion at Rabaul. He was invalided to Australia with dysentery in June 1919 and his appointment was terminated.

In retirement Sandford was a director of the Australian Probate and General Assurance Corporation. He died suddenly at his home at Bondi Beach, Sydney, on 21 January 1923 and was buried in Rookwood cemetery with Anglican rites. He was survived by his second wife, Marion Florence, née Mayer, whom he had married on 19 January 1909, and by his four children. During his lifetime it was said of him that though not brilliant he was 'every inch a soldier, and an admirable soldier at that … for the past twenty years what he has not read of soldiering has not been published'.

Sandford's two sons, Horace Charles Augustus and Arthur Bruce, both served with the Australian Imperial Force, the former as a captain in the 21st Battalion, and the latter as a major with the 108th Battery and commander of the 8th Field Artillery Brigade and the 3rd Divisional Ammunition Column. Horace was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre and Arthur received the Distinguished Service Order and was twice mentioned in dispatches. Both were bank officers in civilian life. Horace represented Victoria at cricket.

Select Bibliography

  • Bank of New South Wales Roll of Honour (Syd, 1921)
  • E. Scott, Australia During the War (Syd, 1936)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F. in France, 1918 (Syd, 1942)
  • London Gazette, 1 June, 25 Dec 1917, 28 May, 3 June, 12 July 1918
  • Punch (Melbourne), 30 Mar 1916
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 22-24 Jan 1923, 21 July 1961
  • B168, 1904/184/2 (National Archives of Australia)
  • records (Australian War Memorial).

Citation details

Chris Clark, 'Sandford, Augustus Henry (1859–1923)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 14 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (Melbourne University Press), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


16 May, 1859
Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, England


21 January, 1923 (aged 63)
Bondi, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


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